Friday, July 21, 2006

finding lyricism and truth

Throughout the process of blogging, writing about blogging, constructing a website that features the vagaries and intersections of nonfiction, fiction, and the dance of truth with fantasy, I have slipped down a few rabbit holes, I must admit.

If fiction is the lie that tells the ultimate truth, and the lyric register is the moment that lingers in the hearts and minds of an audience due to its emotional particularity and resonance, and creative nonfiction is a form of truth-telling which borrows from literary craft: point of view, dialogue, lyricism, arc, and the like, I’ve found examples of work out there that blurs the edges of all of this in interesting and surprising ways.

I’ve noticed, too, that the idea of appropriation can take many forms: physical, lyrical, thematic, and what makes a given piece shine is the unique, quirky melodic interpretation of the particular author.

Take Judith Kitchen, for instance, in her book, “The House on Eccles Road.” Kitchen appropriated certain aspects of Joyce’s “Ulysses”: the death of a young child, Dublin as a setting (although Kitchen’s is Dublin, OH), and having the entire book take place in a day, she then filters the tale through the point of view of the female character (Joyce’s Molly doesn’t get a POV), and thrusts the book forward into present-day suburbia, finding within it a mirror that fully reflects the human condition from a place of timelessness.

Kitchen borrows from her own life, too. There is fear-of-drowning imagery throughout the book, rooted in Kitchen’s experience surviving a flood as a five-year-old. As writers, leveraging our deepest resonant backstory, and using it to get access to a character’s inner life, but then taking that leap, and allowing the character to repurpose it, form a fictional story around it, can lead to the moment that sings.

IMHO, Kitchen hits the lyric register with: The afternoon that had stretched so sensuously before her was shrunken now, reduced to the steady minute-by-minute turnover of the car's digital clock and the wavery sense of fumes on the rise, tailpipe after tailpipe spewing its colorless gases into the atmosphere. The highway ahead was a haze of exhaust, of sun glinting on metal, ricocheting off metal in fitful sparks and harsh streams of light…. She'd learned one thing in her lifetime; people died. People died of a number of causes and in a variety of ways and at every imaginable age, but they died. She couldn't see spending her time reading labels for the least amount of salt or refusing to eat a steak or driving all the way across town for the latest herbal tea when, really, there was more to be doing with her time, which was running out like everyone else's.

Anyone out there have a favorite lyric moment passage that reaches into the authentic and pulls and pulls at it, stopping time, hitting on the universal, and arriving, breathlessly, on a heart-stopping truth?

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